DOE honors Silicon Valley Power’s use of wind power to compensate for drought

The pursuit and creative use of wind power resources has earned Silicon Valley Power (SVP), the city of Santa Clara’s municipal electric utility, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2014 Public Power Wind Award.

The DOE cited SVP innovation and customer benefits in announcing the national award, presented today at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Denver, Colorado.

“Wind and water are two of our cleanest and cheapest sources of electricity,” said John Roukema, Director of SVP. “Wind power helps Santa Clara keep electric rates among the lowest in the state and helps make up for the scarcity of hydroelectric power in a drought year.”

Instead of regularly using hydro-generated power to serve day-to-day needs, SVP has access to as much as 200 MW of wind energy. Tapping that power when it is available allows SVP to preserve water levels at its hydroelectric reservoirs for use when electricity demand spikes during heat waves.

In 1982, SVP became a pioneer in harnessing wind to generate power when it invested in a 20 MW wind farm on Altamount Pass in the East Bay. Subsequent long-term investments with Iberdrola Renewables, the latest in 2012, also bring in power from the Big Horn Wind Energy Project in Washington and the Manzana Wind Power Project in Southern California.

Over 30 percent of SVP’s power comes from carbon-free wind, hydroelectric, solar, geothermal and landfill gas generation resources — well ahead of California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements. In addition, SVP customers have an option to use 100 percent renewables by signing up for Santa Clara Green Power.

“SVP has remained mindful of environmental impacts and demonstrated project creativity in wind development for over 30 years,” said Roukema. “We recognize our responsibility to provide efficient, clean and reliable energy to our community at rates up to 45 percent lower than those in neighboring cities.”  

A panel of wind, public power, utility, government, and national laboratory experts selected SVP for the Public Power Wind Award (single utility category) from among seven nominated public power utilities in the United States.

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